I have authoritah!

It’s generally accepted that Beagle boys are more of a handful than their female counterparts. Certainly Biggles has presented us with challenges we haven’t had to face with Beanie.

The first problem we had was with resource guarding, or more specifically sock guarding. Our little boy developed a major obsession with socks from an early age, and he’d growl and even snap at our hands if we tried to take them off him. A little bit of firm handling from the head trainer at Biggles’ obedience class convinced him that this wasn’t a good way to behave, and though he still appreciates an occasional sock (especially if it’s smelly), he’s now very willing to accept a trade.


We tend to think he’s not as smart as Beanie, but he has learned how to open the tumble dryer and help himself to socks!

The growling and snapping (usually with no or very light contact from his teeth) soon resurfaced in other situations however. Though initially an extremely cuddly boy, he now took a dislike to being picked up and handled which was not very helpful when a vet examination or a nail trimming was required. My gut reaction to this was to be firm with him and make it very clear that such behavior would not be tolerated, but the almost unanimous advice we read was to avoid confrontations, so that’s what we did. As we backed off however Biggles started misbehaving in more and more situations. He developed a kind of passive-aggressive response to anything he didn’t like. It was kind of Gandhi meets Hannibal Lecter; he’d roll over onto his side, raise his upper rear leg slightly and snap at any attempt to approach him. We saw this when we told him to leave the kitchen, to come in from the garden, to go into his crate, in fact pretty much any time we asked him to do something he didn’t want.

We consulted trainers about this and the consensus was that as an adolescent boy, the Bigglet was just getting a bit too big for his boots. He needed to be shown his place in the world, but not by shouting and bottom smacking. Instead,  withdrawal of privileges and symbolic demonstrations of our superiority was the way to go.

About a month ago, we made the following changes:

  • Biggles is no longer allowed into bed with us in the morning
  • He is no longer allowed to sit on the sofa beside me
  • When entering or leaving the house he has to sit and wait for us to go first
  • If he tries the bitey-Gandhi routine, we just stand over him and stare him out until he gives up (usually less than 60 secs)

Interestingly these are all the kind of things you see on Caesar Milan’s “The Dog Whisperer” every week, even though the trainers in question don’t subscribe to his theories. According to Caesar’s pack hierarchy model we weren’t being sufficiently strong pack leaders and Biggles had figured he was the boy to fill that role.


By the age of 32, Alexander The Great ruled most of the known world. At the age of 1 year and a few weeks Biggles has lost his bedroom and sofa privileges, but he still has his favorite step.

The thing is, whether you believe Caesar’s theories or not a lot of his advice seems to work, and that’s the case here. Since we’ve been following these simple steps Biggles has once again become an easy going, cuddly little boy. He’s still naughty of course, but then he is a Beagle and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


OK, OK I’ll go into my basket, but I’m still going to give my bed a good seeing-to!

4 Replies to “I have authoritah!”

  1. Hollie

    It’s so nice to know it’s not just Alfie who misbehaves!!! I love reading your blog, wish we lived nearer so Alf could play with Beanie & Biggles, they would cause absolute carnage!!!

    Alfie does something very similar, usually if he has something he shouldn’t (they just know don’t they when it’s something they’re not allowed) and when he is tired. We call it his Elvis impression as he curls his lip and grizzles at us! He has become a lot better, we too try to maintain an air that we run the roost, if only! :-)

  2. Julia

    Thanks for posting about this. We are adding a male beagle teenager to our household tomorrow, and I’ve been preparing myself for how he might be different from Dolly.

    Cesar is not all wrong. And he’s an intuitive and experienced dog handler. My problem with him is that he teaches harsh methods to inexperienced people, and uses a scientifically discredited theory to support it, which is the idea that dogs primarily relate to each other through a rigid hierarchy and are either dominant or submissive. The reality is much more nuanced and complex, and Cesar (or the Monks of New Skete, etc..) do dogs a real disservice by promoting the idea of ‘dominance,’ to people that interpret that to mean bullying is a good training style.

    I would call what you’re doing with Biggles a crash course in civilization and it’s rules – that’s more administrative (no access, no treats) than autocratic (which would be an alpha roll, or scruff grab). And when he’s a good citizen, he gets to participate more fully. To me, that’s the best kind of training. You end up with well earned authority, and he knows the rules. Cesar subscribes to that, but then he just tacks on the rougher stuff, which is where I diverge.

    It’s tricky, taking all of the advice out there and applying it in our homes, in real life. Wish us luck with Beagle #2, on that front! And congratulations on your progress with Biggles. These aren’t easy dogs ;-)

  3. Susan

    My advise would be to trust your instincts and not get bogged down by the latest theories! I find all the theory interesting, but the things that work best tend to come from more of a gut feeling.

    We know lots of Beagle owners and they all differ in their approach to raising their dogs. Some use methods that shock me a little in that they seem harsh. Others seem to let their dogs do whatever they want. One or two swear by a specific methodology or trainer. They all have two things in common:

    1. They love their dogs.
    2. Their dogs are fine – happy and well balanced.

    Just do what you feel comfortable with and what seems to work and you probably won’t go far wrong!

  4. Sara

    While I don’t agree with all of Cesar’s methods, I think a lot can be taken from his two favourite mantras; ‘rules, boundaries, limitations’ and ‘exercise, discipline, affection – in that order’ I’ve pretty much seen the benefits first hand in the short time we’ve had our three year old boy. In his previous home he was essentially a ‘back yard dog’, pretty much left to his own devices all day and getting himself into all kinds of mischief. After a few weeks with us, with a structured routine, increased exercise, some strict and (most importantly) consistant house rules, he’s now very much a different dog. Don’t get me wrong, he still has his moments, but these can almost always be put down to some deviation in the routine/rules.

Comments are closed.